Most of us have woken up with the dreaded back pain. Sometimes, it’s expected, like after that excellent, long workout with your new trainer. Other times, it seems impossible. “I was at work all day using the perfect posture. Now, this?”
Well, why back pain is an (unfortunate) part of life, you likely don’t know all the details about it. Most of us are aware that picking up something awkwardly, slouching, or sleeping incorrectly is a recipe for back pain, but is it really?
If you have ever wanted to know everything about back pain, keep reading. Okay – so it might not be everything, but it’s bound to be some information you might not have heard of before. Let’s dive in.
There is No Perfect Posture
You’ve probably been coached since first grade to sit with your back up straight. Sure, good posture will not cause pain, but it turns out that the “perfect posture” isn’t ideal for everyone.
The fact of the matter is, pain is going to come no matter how you’re sitting. And for some, a little bit of a slouch isn’t all that bad. The issue is with the discs in the lower back. Over time, any type of sitting is going to cause pain. That’s all thanks to the weight of your body being in the same place for an extended period.
So what should you do? Well, according to Harvard Health, the best option is to take regular breaks from sitting. Not only that, but breaks from standing are essential, too.
When you are at work (whether in the office or your living room), make sure you’re taking regular breaks. This means getting up and moving around, not plunging into your bed (which I think we all know is a definite possibility thanks to working from home).
Sleeping Positions Are Critical
Ever woken up and said, “Ouch! I slept wrong.” Yup, It’s the dreaded back pain showing up after what you thought would be a good night’s sleep. What’s the deal? Well, we all know that sleeping “wrong” is likely to bring about undesirable back pains. But what is wrong, anyway? How should you be sleeping?
According to Healthline, there are a few ways to get a great night’s sleep and fend off the back pain dilemma:
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees.
- Sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your belly.
- Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees.
See a recurring theme here? Pillows are the go-to; unless, of course, you have a top-notch bed that allows you to realign your position. But whether you’re using a sophisticated reclinable bed or your fave pillows, one thing is for sure: alignment is necessary for success.
While we’re at it, make sure you ditch your old mattress, too. Over time, a bed will begin to lose its support. As you might assume, this means more back pain. It’s time to say goodbye to your trusty mattress and try something new. Your back will thank you.
Diet Plays a Role
I know it’s easy to settle on a lifestyle of tacos, cheeseburgers, and the after-work drink. We’ve all been there. And while tacos aren’t going to lead to back pain, a repetitively bad diet over an extended period can lead to pain. What?
Being overweight has a direct impact on your livelihood. And yes, excess weight can easily translate into the form of a painful back. This is simply because you’re putting extra pressure on your back day in and day out.
So what should the businessman and woman do? Basically, a better diet and a healthy weight can reduce the chance of back pain. No, you don’t have to leave taco Tuesday in the past. But making sure you aren’t overindulging or eating too many carne asada tacos is a start. Try to replace some of your meals with fresh ingredients and lean proteins like fish.
Exercise is Highly Beneficial
Trust me; I have been plagued by back pain plenty of times. The only thing you want to do is lay down and relax. Exercise is the last thing on our minds. But let me tell you – laying around and waiting for a miracle is going to do more harm than good. Exercise is hugely beneficial to getting rid of back pain and fending off future aches.
Exercise is excellent for your back in so many ways. Just as WebMD states, it’s ideal for strengthening the entirety of your back – including your spine. But what exercises are suitable for your back? Here’s a quick list.
- Yoga. Yoga is one of the most highly recommended exercises for back pain. Why? Because it’s loaded to the tee with stretches. These stretches will allow your muscles to relax and become more flexible, thus reducing the chance of aches and pains in the future.
- Half crunches. Doing a situp when you struggle with back pain is a definite no-no. But should all muscle and back-building situps be avoided? Nope! Doing a half crunch is a great way to strengthen your abdomen and back without discomfort.
- Aerobics. Yes, those fun aerobics classes do more than give you a good time. They also help you with your flexibility! And, if you don’t know by now, here’s a secret: flexibility can enormously help with back pain and relief. So, go ahead and join the next class.
Smoking Can Cause Back Pain
If you need more of a push to quit smoking, how about this: smoking can increase back pain. That’s right. Your go-to for stress relief and relaxation is doing even more harm than you may have thought. But how is this possible?
Well, Franciscan Health has a few reasons why smoking is not suitable for the back.
- Nicotine hinders blood flow. When we think of blood flow, we don’t typically involve the back. However, a reduced blood flow can lead to damages in the ligaments and muscles, including your back.
- Smoking also damages the discs of the spine. Since nicotine hinders the natural nutrient exchange in the body, the discs cannot heal and regenerate. So you can forget about recovering from that back pain anytime soon while smoking.
What’s the verdict? Quit smoking. This will benefit you in all areas, but the surprising benefit is reduced back pain. That’s something we can all agree on!
Your Gait Matters
I don’t really have any other way to put this: the way you walk has an impact on your back pain. And this can be a frightening thought. After all, I did say earlier that frequent breaks from sitting and standing are practical solutions to back pain. What if your walk is making these breaks cancel out?
The best thing to do is to know how to walk correctly. It is explained excellently in this video by a medical professional.
But while you’re at it, make sure that you’re also not trying to walk with flat feet or foot pain. Flat feet can cause your gait to be wonky and put more pressure on some areas rather than others. Also, any type of foot pain can make it so that you’re not walking “correctly.”
Needless to say, a trip to the tootsie doctor may be in order. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell if you’re struggling with flat feet unless a doc informs you. But trust me, once you know and have proper insoles and shoes, you will be so happy you found out.
Ditch the Heels
And women everywhere take a sigh of relief. No, but really. Heels are not best friends forever with your back. Why? It all roots back to alignment. Heels that are far too high will awkwardly position your body. This leads to an unaligned spine and places more pressure on those finicky discs.
Now, ditching heels is not exactly a viable solution for some gals. After all, I don’t think the boss would approve of flip-flops or ballet slippers in the office. So what should women do?
The best thing to do is to stick to a lower heel. A heel that is around 1 inch won’t cause too much damage. As a bonus, your feet won’t ache so much, and you will improve your gait. And if we know anything by now, your gait is all part of the package when it comes to ridding back discomfort.
Tight Clothes Are a No-No
The 80s called – they want their skinny jeans back. To be honest, I think plenty of us love the way we look in tight clothes. But, none of us actually enjoy it. Well, now you have a reason to say sayonara to your too-tight jeans.
Tight clothing can have a significant impact on your back comfort. Why? Squeezing into a tight pair of jeans will negatively affect your posture and the way you move. I’m sorry, but nobody is walking around “normally” in their favorite leather pants.
The solution to this is simple: make tight clothing scarce. Go out and splurge on some clothes that fit. And I mean really fit. They should be comfortable enough so that you can walk, sit, and stand properly.
Bulky Wallets Need to Go, Too
If you’ve ever watched Seinfeld, then you probably already knew this surprising fact. Walking around with a far too large wallet is actually going to do some harm in the back pain realm. So, while you might think that you’re “stunting” with your larger-than-life wallet, you won’t be showing off for long.
But what’s going on here? Can a wallet have that much of an impact on your comfort and back? Yup, it’s true. Known as fat wallet syndrome, a bulky wallet can strain your lower back when you sit down. You’re essentially going to be sitting higher on one butt cheek than the other. The result? Misalignment.
Do your sciatic nerves a favor and declutter your wallet. Things you have had sticking around for a year and a half likely don’t need to be in there anymore. Try switching to a smaller, sleeker wallet altogether so that new items can’t fit anymore.
Back Pain Will Go Away On Its Own (Most of the Time)
Now for some comforting news: most acute back pain will go away on its own. It’s understandable to be frightened when you wake up with a twinge, but you’re not out of luck. There are specific steps you should take during your recovery time, though, including:
- Don’t lay around. Laying around on a heating pad sounds like a grand idea, but it isn’t. While short bursts of laying down and relaxing are acceptable, they should not be prolonged. This can make your pain last much longer. Instead, get up and get moving with some back-friendly activities such as walking or aerobics.
- Consume anti-inflammatory ingredients. Turmeric, green tea, and cherries are all excellent sources of anti-inflammatory compounds. Add them to your diet, and you will be glad you did, says Spine-Health.
- Don’t sit or stand for excessive periods. Everyone, listen up: this is the goal. Do not sit or stand for excessive periods! This will lead to built-up pressure and back pain. Alternate between sitting and standing, which is simple when utilizing a standing desk. Take frequent breaks and get moving.
- Get better sleep. Buy a better mattress and make sure you’re sleeping in a back-friendly position. While you’re at it, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Enough sleep each night will reduce stress levels. And, surprise! Too much stress can lead to back pain, so let’s avoid it.
If your back pain doesn’t go away after a few weeks, it may be time to see a doctor. This is also true if you’re experiencing numbness, muscle weakness, abdominal bladder and bowel experiences, or chronic illnesses.
No one likes back pain, and it is not inevitable. But there are some simple ways to reduce pain and future discomfort. The best tips are to stay active and get plenty of movement. Make sure you’re gait is correct and you’re wearing the right clothing and footwear. A good night’s sleep and a proper diet will also work wonders for your back.
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